Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates (an Obama appointee held over in the Trump administration) instructed the Department Of Justice not to defend President Trump’s not to defend his controversial temporary refugee ban as long as she’s in the position.
Yates explained in a letter that she does not believe the order is even lawful.
The White House released a strongly worded statement announcing that Yates would be replaced by Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, as acting attorney general.
The Washington Post’s Jonathan Adler noted significant details that undercut Yates’ argument against defending the executive order:
A few quick observations. First, the statement seems to indicate that the executive order was reviewed by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which apparently concluded that the executive order was lawful. Second, Yates does not claim that she cannot defend the executive order because it is unconstitutional or because the Justice Department would be unable to offer good-faith arguments in defense of its legality. To the contrary, Yates claims she is ordering the Justice Department not to defend the executive order because it is not “wise or just.” This is quite significant. I am not aware of any instance in which the Justice Department has refused to defend a presumptively lawful executive action on this basis.
Now Yates is gone, and the Senate is expected to confirm Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) by the end of the week.